Today we’re sitting down with House Party’s SVP of Sales and Marketing, Kerry Lyons, to discuss how her career led her to the world of advocacy marketing and where she believes that world is heading.
What has your career path looked like so far, and how did it lead you to House Party?
I spent almost 15 years in traditional advertising account management, working for great agencies like JWT, M&C Saatchi and Lowe on great brands like Kellogg’s, British Airways and Johnson & Johnson. I left the agency world to work at Mindset Media, a digital media start-up founded by two former colleagues; as the sixth employee, I was involved in everything from research to sales to marketing, which really immersed me in the digital realm and expanded my skill set prior to joining House Party. To me, House Party is the perfect combination of my two former worlds — it allows me to continue to build brands and lasting client relationships while offering those clients all the benefits of today’s digital and social landscape.
What really attracted you to the world of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM)?
Well, my attraction to House Party was about much more than just word-of-mouth marketing: it was our unique fusion of online and offline and our ability to give consumers authentic brand experiences and the tools to share them. And yes, of course, the power of WOM and advocacy marketing, because it’s so intuitive. I always ask our prospects what they think is more compelling — a product sample delivered in a Sunday paper or thrust at them during their commute, or a product experienced in the home of a friend. Whether it’s a veggie burger, a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or a new eye cream, when the brand experience is delivered by a trusted friend, it resonates. It’s memorable. That’s what’s most attractive about advocacy marketing to me. It’s not only intuitive that we turn to our friends for product recommendations; it’s proven.
How did your time in traditional agency environments inform your experiences at House Party?
When I look back, I treasure my agency days for many reasons, not the least of which is that they formed the foundation for the business practices I adhere to — and hope to inspire in others — today. Way back when, I went through PDP (Professional Development Program) at JWT; we were taught presentation skills and business writing. We were given live opportunities to work across cross-functional teams, to see more than one solution to any given problem, to manage up — and down — internally and externally. I learned how important it is to pay attention to detail, to respond promptly and to admit when you don’t know the answer. I learned how to be a better listener, a better team member, a better boss and, hopefully, a better person. Those aren’t just business skills; they’re life skills. And they’re skills that come into play each day at House Party as I juggle the demands of a busy sales team with the deadlines of a driven marketing team and the responsibilities of an entrepreneurial management team.
What excites you most about where marketing is today and where it’s heading?
I spent years working on accounts where we’d gather consumer insights, use them to inform a great creative execution (typically TV or print back then!) and then wait. We’d wait to see if the creative message resonated, if the product moved off shelves, if we changed the hearts and minds of consumers. We’d wait to see if, perchance, we broke through the clutter enough for the brand to become part of a consumer story.
Well, as you may have heard, it doesn’t quite work that way anymore. A good idea — a winning brand idea — can come from anywhere. And today, it often comes from the consumer. They — consumer brand advocates — are creating the brand messages and they are spreading the word. That, to me, is hugely exciting. At House Party, our mission is to identify those advocates, give them an authentic, memorable brand experience and provide them with the tools to share it. It’s a winning combination, and brands are reaping the rewards — like our recent work with Morningstar Farms that won a Forrester Groundswell Award or our activation for Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl X, which was just honored with a Social TV Award.
If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
I would clone myself so I could get twice as much done on any given day. Like many working moms, I often have the sense that if I’ve nailed it at the office, I’ve somehow fallen short at home, and vice versa. Beyond that, I often have overlapping meetings in the office or might have penciled in a run or yoga class for the same time as a dentist appointment. If I could send my clone on a run while I got my teeth cleaned — or, better yet, send my clone to back-to-school night while I speak at a conference — that would be perfect!